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German and Austrian Literature: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries  
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The trilogy tells the story of two lovers, Dorn and Viktor, and their female friend Todora.

These late twentieth-century authors are connected to much earlier gay writers. For example, Ziegler, Schernikau, and Meyer, each in his own way, take up the theme of the gay man yearning for one man with whom to share his love. Like earlier writers, they also depict the difficulties, from without or within, of living and loving in an intolerant society.

Two Swiss novelists take up those themes and the larger tradition in slightly different ways.

Guido Bachmann connects the love between men to mythic homosexual archetypes in his trilogy Zeit und Ewigkeit (Time and Eternity): Gilgamesh, 1967; Die Parabel (The Parable), 1978; and Echnaton, 1982.

Christoph Geiser explores the presence of the past in gay life today. Das geheime Fieber (Secret Fever [1987]) is a novel about a man who becomes obsessed with the painter Caravaggio. In Das Gefängnis der Wünsche (The Prison of Wishes [1992]), the German poet Goethe and the Marquis de Sade return to life in present-day Berlin.

The 1980s and 1990s in German gay literature showed many similar developments to those in other Western countries. Genre fiction (such as detective novels) and photo books increased in popularity. Probably the most widely read German gay author at the turn of the twenty-first century is Ralf König, who writes and illustrates comic novels.

AIDS has begun to appear as a theme in gay fiction while taking its toll among writers, critics, and readers. (Schernikau died of AIDS in 1991.) Meyer's Ein letzter Dank den Leichtathleten was one of the first works of fiction to grapple with the difficulty of writing about AIDS.

The interior monologue of a man frozen by fear when diagnosed as HIV-positive is featured in Christoph Klimke's story Der Test (1992) and in Mario Wirz's autobiographical "report" Es ist spät, ich kann nicht atmen (It Is Late, I Cannot Breathe [1992]).

The interiority of autobiographical fiction also characterizes Napoleon Seyfarth's Scwheine müssen nackt sein (Pigs Have to Be Naked [1991]).

As with gay and lesbian literature itself, literary criticism of that fiction has been slow in developing. There has as yet been no outpouring of articles and books on this diverse literature. One academic journal (FORUM) exists, one publishing house is devoted exclusively to gay literature (Verlag rosa Winkel in Berlin), and one university offers courses in gay and lesbian studies (Siegen).

But interest from all sides has increased--from the literary establishment, from the general public, from gay and lesbian critics and readers. Recent scholarly publications and the careers of some of the authors mentioned here indicate a promising future.

James W. Jones

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social sciences >> Overview:  Austria

A small German-speaking country in middle Europe, Austria is now home to a thriving glbtq subculture.

social sciences >> Overview:  Berlin

Notable in the twentieth century both for its pioneering efforts in homosexual emancipation and for the subsequent Nazi persecution of homosexuals, Berlin is now a major participant in the struggle to gain legal recognition of gay relationships.

literature >> Overview:  German and Austrian Literature: Before the Nineteenth Century

The treatment of homosexuality in German and Austrian literature was largely negative until the eighteenth century, when the basis was laid for the development of a more positive attitude.

social sciences >> Overview:  Germany

While Germany, until recently, never officially accepted or welcomed members of the glbtq community, German culture and homosexuality have a long and significant history.

social sciences >> Overview:  Nazism and the Holocaust

As part of its agenda to preserve an "Aryan master race," Nazism persecuted homosexuals as "asocial parasites"; more than 100,000 men were arrested on homosexual charges during the Nazi years, with 5,000-15,000 gay men incarcerated in concentration camps.

social sciences >> Overview:  Situational Homosexuality

Situational homosexuality is same-sex sexual activity that occurs not as part of a gay life style, but because the participants happen to find themselves in a single-sex environment for a prolonged period.

social sciences >> Overview:  Third Sex

The relative popularity of the term "third sex" to refer to homosexuals is closely connected to its use by some of the most prominent representatives of the early homosexual rights movement in Germany.

social sciences >> Overview:  Vienna

The capital of Austria, Vienna is also the country's largest city, as well as its political, economic, and cultural center, and the undisputed hub of Austrian gay and lesbian life.

literature >> Brecht, Bertolt

Germany's most celebrated and influential dramatist of the twentieth century, Brecht depicted homosexual desire in his early writings, where it is cloaked in ambiguity and tied to issues of power.

arts >> Caravaggio

The most original painter of early seventeenth-century Europe, Caravaggio imbues his art with homoeroticism.

literature >> Fichte, Hubert

Novelist Hubert Fichte was the first author to introduce homosexuality openly into German literature after World War II.

social sciences >> Freud, Sigmund

The founder of psychoanalysis and the discoverer of the unconscious, Sigmund Freud initiated a fundamental transformation in the self-understanding of Western men and women, including especially the role of sexuality.

literature >> George, Stefan

Stefan George, one of the foremost German poets of the turn of the twentieth century, encoded his homosexuality in his works.

social sciences >> Hirschfeld, Magnus

German-born Magnus Hirschfeld deserves recognition as a significant theorist of sexuality and the most prominent advocate of homosexual emancipation of his time.

literature >> Hössli, Heinrich

Nineteenth-century Swiss milliner and anthologist Heinrich Hössli was a passionate apologist for homosexuality, but his work exerted almost no influence.

arts >> König, Ralf

Germany's most successful comic strip artist, Ralf König has made gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender themes the most important component of his work.

literature >> Mackay, John Henry

The Scottish-German John Henry Mackay, who wrote in German, dedicated himself to the cause of gaining sympathetic recognition of man-boy love.

literature >> Mann, Klaus

Klaus Mann's vision of homosexuality is marked by loneliness and alienation, and his fiction is characterized by melancholic hopelessness.

literature >> Mann, Thomas

One of Germany's greatest twentieth-century authors, Thomas Mann encoded his own homosexuality in his novels but thought that homosexuality led to the destruction of social institutions and the death of the individual homosexual.

literature >> Meier, Karl

Swiss actor, cabaret performer, and stage director Karl Meier was, under the pseudonym "Rolf," editor of Der Kreis, the leading European homophile publication, from 1943 until its demise in 1967.

social sciences >> Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 was the German law prohibiting sex between men; strengthened by the Nazis, it was the statue under which homosexuals were sent to concentration camps.

literature >> Platen, August von

The poems of Count August von Platen are homoerotic expressions of Platonic love, idealism, beauty, friendship, and longing.

literature >> Roellig, Ruth Margarete

Chronicler of Berlin's lesbian club scene of the late 1920s, writer Ruth Roellig was part of the lively gay counterculture of Germany's Weimar era.

literature >> Sade, Marquis de

Whether or not the Marquis de Sade was himself bisexual, homosexual activity is an important item in his program of revolutionary sexual libertinism.

literature >> Schwarzenbach, Annemarie

Swiss writer and photojournalist Annemarie Schwarzenbach documented social conditions from Afghanistan to Alabama; her fiction reflected the tormented attachments and recurring loneliness that plagued her short lifetime.

social sciences >> Ulrichs, Karl Heinrich

Nineteenth-Century German activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was both the first modern theorist of homosexuality and the first homosexual to "come out" publicly.

literature >> Vock, Anna

Activist and editor Anna Vock pioneered in organizing lesbians and gay men in Switzerland in the 1930s.

literature >> Vogel, Bruno

Bruno Vogel's experiences as a soldier during World War I and as a homosexual in a society hostile to any open expression of same-sex love shaped his political and aesthetic vision.

literature >> Weirauch, Anna Elisabet

Anna Elisabet Weirauch is best remembered for her three-volume lesbian novel Der Skorpion (The Scorpion) set during the Weimar Republic.

literature >> Winsloe, Christa

The German novelist, dramatist, and screenwriter Christa Winsloe reflected her lesbianism in works that treat sexual identity within societies stratified according to gender roles.


Campe, Joachim, ed. Andere Lieben. Homosexualität in der deutschen Literatur. Ein Lesebuch. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1988.

Derks, Paul. Die Schande der heiligen Päderastie. Homosexualität und Öffentlichkeit in der deutschen Literatur 1750-1850. Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1990.

Faderman, Lillian, and Brigitte Eriksson, ed. Lesbians in Germany: 1890's-1920's. 2d ed. [Original title: Lesbianism-Feminism in Turn-of-the-Century Germany (1980)] Tallahassee, Fla.: Naiad Press, 1990.

Homann, Joachim S., ed. Der heimliche Sexus. Homosexuelle Belletristik in Deutschland von 1900 bis heute. Frankfurt am Main: Foerster, 1979.

Jones, James W. "We of the Third Sex: Literary Representations of Homosexuality in Wilhelmine Germany. New York: Peter Lang, 1990.

Kuzniar, Alice A. Outing Goethe and His Age. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.

Marti, Madeleine. Hinterlegte Botschaften. Die Darstellung lesbischer Frauen in der deutschsprachigen Literatur seit 1945. 2d ed. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 1992.

Popp, Wolfgang. Männerliebe. Homosexualität und Literatur. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 1992.

Vollhaber, Tomas. Das Nichts. Die Angst. Die Erfahrung. Untersuchung zur zeitgenössischen schwulen Literatur. Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1987.


    Citation Information
    Author: Jones, James W.  
    Entry Title: German and Austrian Literature: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 27, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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